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  #1  
Old 24 May 2006
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suggestions for managing cash during trip

Hi All,

I was wondering how you experienced guys manage your finances whilst in Central and South America?

I am going later in the year and wondered about Visa vs Mastercard, cash, vs travellers cheques (or even the American Express prepay card thingie).

Has what happened to the unfortunate Austrian couple changed your approach? I have heard of people keeping their savings in an account back home and transferring the cash when needed to another accessible one which I thought was pretty sensible.

Thanks for any pointers,

Paul
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  #2  
Old 24 May 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by paulgthomson
Hi All,

I was wondering how you experienced guys manage your finances whilst in Central and South America?

I am going later in the year and wondered about Visa vs Mastercard, cash, vs travellers cheques (or even the American Express prepay card thingie).

Has what happened to the unfortunate Austrian couple changed your approach? I have heard of people keeping their savings in an account back home and transferring the cash when needed to another accessible one which I thought was pretty sensible.

Thanks for any pointers,

Paul
Here, in Costa Rica, Travelers Cheques are time consuming to cash(only banks will do it and lines are long) and there is a charge.
Major credit cards work in higher-end establishments of course, but there may be a fee.
Consider bank cards, as they will work in many ATMs(about half)
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  #3  
Old 24 May 2006
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money

In some areas the Plus cards work, in others, the Cirrus. Try to have a Visa AND a Mastercard as the same goes for them as well. AAA (American Automobile Assoc.) sells these in pre-paid form which is very handy. I tried to keep some USD hidden on myself and/or the bike. 20's and 50's are a good choice. 100's tend to be too much, and of course when you decide to use one, you'll be at a place with a poor exchange rate- or just about to cross a border! There are several countries along the way that use the USD. As far as running into trouble... I use online banking and have a seperate account- with a seperate institution- I use for savings/brokerage. In areas I felt security was an issue, I made sure my checking account (connected by a debit card) had less than $1000 in it. If I were forced to submit my PIN, my account could be emptied in a couple days. This, I hoped, and the cash I carried hidden would hopefully buy off whomever. Be creative and come up with a good place to hide your other cards. In your muggers wallet it might be wise to have a card with a low limit- you can re-charge them online with AAA I think. This would be great because you could keep less than $300 on the card. Good luck on your trip!
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Last edited by hook; 28 May 2006 at 00:26.
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  #4  
Old 24 May 2006
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managing cash

Take your own personal bank card to an account which has a limited supply of funds . I mean your BANK card , credit cards are a second option. Your BANK card will , if it contains the logos on the reverse for the systems of Cirrus, Maestro , Plus, and others, function quite handily in the automatic banking machines ( ATM or ABM = Cajero Automatico) on Mexico and Central America. You will get the local cash debited from your own bank account at a fair rate of exchange plus a fixed service fee, about $3 per transaction.
You can use credit cards too to take cash from the ABMs but there is a higher service fee and heavy interest for borrowing their money, especially if you are late paying it back.
Travelers cheques are a bygone era's technology, far too troublesome to use.
Carrying $1000 on you is way too much. A Maximum withdrawal of $300 to $500 is more than enough to last the better part of a week. What sort of trouble are you looking for that you would need $1000 cash !!??Remember Katarina and Peter!
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  #5  
Old 24 May 2006
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on trouble

It so happens I rode several days with a fellow before he crashed in the Copper Canyon last year, it took cash (it happened to be only $1000 thanks to an Ibarra brother!) to get his bike out of the canyon and on to El Paso. Cash can easily be hidden in the motorcycle. If the bike is stolen, the trip is probably over anyway. As far as what kind of trouble I'd be looking for, it's the the kind of trouble that I didn't plan on- like crashing in the Copper Canyon. The Austrian's were taken for their cards and PIN codes, money was then drawn from their bank accounts. The cash they carried (or didn't) probably had nothing to do with the outcome. Carry whatever amount you're comfortable with- I'm not giving orders here, just suggestions- but I'd have some cash on reserve just in case.
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Last edited by hook; 24 May 2006 at 22:14.
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  #6  
Old 24 May 2006
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managing cash

I did't mean to offend anyone, but I do think it is a bad idea to carry too much cash , even hidden on a bike. Think of it this way: what if everybody started doing this and the crooked types got wind of it. Pretty soon it would be sport for them to simply knock off a bike tourist and pick over the corpse and bike for the sure find of a thousand bucks. Just like the old days ,people shooting a buffalo just for the tongue. What the heck there were lots of them.
I'm sure your unfortunate friend would have gottten his bike back to the states somehow even with no ready cash at hand to begin with. A few years ago my R100R driveshaft crapped out at Santa Rosalilito in Baja and I was back at the border in Tijuana the next evening with the bike after meeting the nicest Mexican businessmen who were going there anyway.
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  #7  
Old 25 May 2006
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When using ATMs for traveling, don't wait until you are broke before getting more cash.

The machine eats your card...
The only machine in town is broken...(Santa Rosalia, for example..)
Etc...
....and it's Saturday evening...

Have a stash and don't touch it.
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  #8  
Old 27 May 2006
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AMex has a traveler's check credit card now. I plan to get one once I hit Mexico.
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  #9  
Old 27 May 2006
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Get yourself a nationwide flex account debit card (i take it you are a UK resident).They don't charge you any fees for drawing cash abroad and it has the visa logo too.I got one before my trip last year.Everyone has their own ways and ideas of carrying cash and how much etc.The internet is probably not the best place to discuss it though.Just make sure you are sensible where you draw your cash.Some machines give you your cash first then your card unlike in UK.I was with a fellow traveller in the town in Bolivia where those poor Austrians were kidnapped.He drew some money out and left machine without his card.A local came running up to him to hand him the card.Just remember there are plenty of good people out there too.
I always made sure i had enough fuel on exiting a country and just enough money for border and to get me to next town likely to have an ATM.Just so i didn't have too much left over in currency that i wouldn't need again.Saves you getting diddled by money exchangers on border.
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Old 27 May 2006
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Sj

The same thing happened to me in Mexico. I left my card at an ATM. As I was putting in my ear-plugs to continue riding a man ran out and handed me my card. I've met people along the way who've had things stolen- usually in the typical areas: bus and railway stations, crowded markets, etc. It's nice we can skip those areas on our bikes!
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Last edited by hook; 27 May 2006 at 23:58.
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  #11  
Old 27 May 2006
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On my last Mexico trip, i kept my money in a Paypal Acct., with which i can transfer to seperate bank accounts. This transfer takes a few days to complete. I then transfer what i need for a few weeks into one account and use that one atm card. My other emergency card stays hidden for emergencies. If i loose my main card or it gets stolen, the culprits have only a limited amount of cash to take. I can then transfer funds to my emergency account and use that card when the funds arrive. I try to keep my cash to under $200 if i can.
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  #12  
Old 29 May 2006
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Thumbs up money on the road

Hi People, I also use the Nationwide debit/credit card system for the reasons already mentioned but with a variation. Using the internet banking, it is possible to open several accounts for both the credit and debit cards, the only proviso is that the debit account(s) are kept in credit and the credit ones are repaid each month. Therefore, you can carry 2 sets of debit/credit cards (keeping them seperate of course) so that if one set is eaten/stolen you have back up; and to add a belt to the braces, leave a third set with your Mum who, if it really is turning into a bad hair day, can send it to you in order to buy your ticket home. As to cash, it varies from country to country but I have found that a float of about US$300.00 - 500.00 covers most things but remember, keep a satisfying amount in the 'muggers' wallet along with all of your funny money and only take your money out at night. Ride safe, Mike Anderson
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  #13  
Old 30 May 2006
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I always travel with mutible sources of finance:

1. Visa Card (take two - each refering to a different account)
2. Lot's of Travellers checks (3-4 weeks of living expenses)
3. A good amount of cash (1-2 weeks of living expenses)

This winter in Costa Rica my Visa card got shot down on my first day in the country when I tried using it in a local ATM. So what then ... good to have travellers checks and cash for backup.

Might be a good idea to use two bank acoounts one for your visa and one for feeding the visa card account - donĀ“t know if its feasible on the road.
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  #14  
Old 31 May 2006
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For Central and South America, I would suggest you to travel with no more then 500$US cash on yourself even 300$US is OK as emergency. Avoid to go to ATM machine when the banks are close. You will do it anyway! It only happened once that my card was kept inside the machine but when the bank is open, you have it back in a few minutes.

You need more US bills in Central America cause you have to pay fees for crossing the borders. Try the know the exchange rate of the new country by using Internet for example. You can change a 20$US bill at the border to make you life easier when entering a new country but there is always someone somewhere who wants US dollars. Like Sigoodacre mentionned, just plan ahead before crossing the border to not miss anything: fuel, water, food, so you'll need no money right away. Otherwise, there are plenty of ATM machines everywhere.

Never needed any Traveller's checks. Don't loose money on that.

Panama use US$ as their national money. So you can get supply there in Central America.

In Ecuador, the "Cirrus" network is more popular than the "Plus" so a Mastercard credit card is better there. I had to search a bit more before getting money with my PLUS card.

In Brasil, most bank don't accept Cirrus and Plus cards. I was only able to get money from the HSBC bank network! But they are a lot of them on the coast and big cities inside the country. Only if you go out in the jungle or isolated area for many days you really need to bring money with you. I had to do once 15hours of bus round trip to get money because of my bad planning

In Bolivia, It's better to get US dollar bills than Bolivianos at ATM. You pay only the transactions fees one time instead of 5 times for the same amount of money. I have a limit of 500$CAN per transaction but sometime they use 500 of the local currency when I withdraw money. You'll get 100$US bill from ATMs, keep your receip and have them change at the bank for 20$US bills.

One last note, put your driving license and other papers in one wallet where there is almost no money for police checks. Otherwise the Cops will try to help you travelling lighter but it is always fun to look at them and tell: "I will not give you any money!"

Patrick




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  #15  
Old 1 Jun 2006
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All been said really, if UK resident Nationwide online best deal (plus your bank account in case of disasters).
Visa cards plus Maesto cards (Cochrane ie in S Chile, no Visa ATM....and no ATM at all except that one Maesto one - nearly got caught out) Double your cards in case one gets swallowed...ahem.
Consider keeping out of date cards in false wallet to hand over if robbed or pick-pocketed.
Stash dollars on bike and sewn in clothes...get creative. Always remember you might need money just as the cash is running low and you haven't seen a ATM for days...it'll happen. Same with cards if you like.
Be SURE to set up any Standing Orders well in advance before leaving so you know they are working (try sorting it from SA when they screw up....not fun....been there too, for all the advance planning)
Take out card cover for 6 months (or whatever)
And after all that......generally security is not such an issue, just be sensible. Easy come, easy go ?
(there's always insurance.....though not tried claiming stolen cash back.)
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